There are accusations that the police illegally detained various malcontents who were intending to carry on public demonstrations of various kinds in London on the day of the Royal Wedding.
That seems on the face of it to be a good thing. If the police can’t keep the peace for a Royal ceremony, then there really isn’t much point in having them.
Having said that, the rule of law is actually important. If the police are acting with impunity beyond their legal powers, relying instead on popular support, then they are indeed, as the malcontents claim, moving in the direction of fascism. And I am on record as being opposed to fascism, even in comparison to our crappy democracy.
While as a matter of principle I think opposition to any given regime ought not to be tolerated, because such opposition serves to encourage politics, within a democracy like ours the existence of legitimate public protest is a key part of the political formula which maintains the valuable but illusory legitimacy of the regime.
The problem with illegally suppressing protest, therefore, is that it is self-defeating: it undermines the justification for the existence of the regime itself.
There have to be limits, though. It is of little value that the rule of law is observed by the authorities, if there is violence on the streets. If the choice is between order and law, we must have order first.
Really we should have both. The inability of the authorities to lawfully keep the peace, in Stokes Croft or Soho Square, is one sign among many, that our system of law is broken, strangled, like so many things, by bureaucracy and empty ritual, most importantly in the sheer inefficiency of the legal process.
Charlie Veitch ought to have been legally arrested, tried, convicted, and fined a couple of hundred quid. It may be that there was no law that actually applied, or it may be that it was simply too much work to go through that whole process; either way, the practical alternative was to arrest him (possibly illegally), hold him for 23 hours and 45 minutes, then release him. Any attempt to act against the possibly illegal arrest is subject to the same handicap of the unusable legal system. This situation benefits nobody.
Peter Hitchens blames the Scarman Report. That may indeed be the most significant step in the hobbling of the legal system, but it is just an example of the senescence of our institutions, which mean that ultimately, even with its bullshit “democratic legitimacy”, the present system of government cannot last. And when it falls, it will probably, as Charlie Veitch has seen, decay into fascism rather than being replaced by something better.